HR professionals have put far too much emphasis on the kind of questions you can’t ask a prospective employee – anything dealing with marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religious beliefs, favorite impure thought and their preferred kinds of underwear.
All the while neglecting the questions you must ask. The result? Employees who reveal new deficiencies and disappointing shortcomings every day, while managers are left with weak teams and loads of recovered underwear without the faintest idea who the owners are.
Managers resort to asking tired, bland questions that elicit the same insincere, pat answers. What kind of experience do you have? Where do you want to be five years from now? What is your definition of customer service? Did you bring in your ticket for parking validation?
Smart interviewers know that interviewees have anticipated all their questions and come up with the kind of pre-packaged answers available to anyone on websites such as bigfatlies.com.
Throwing curve balls
What managers need to do is have unexpected questions that are both legal and reveal the candidate’s innermost assets or liabilities. Here are some and the kind of answers you should hope to get.
Where do you want to be five minutes from now? Who wants someone who has a great idea about where they want to be in five years if they cannot think five minutes ahead?
Hope to get an answer such as, “Giving a sample for the drug test”. This reveals self-confidence and knowledge of company procedures.
Tell me about yourself. Weak candidates will merely parrot what you already know from their resumés. Psychotics will go into something deeply personal, sometimes about their underwear, often weeping in the process.
The person you want will tell you that they can parallel park blindfolded, which reveals manual dexterity, persistence, a willingness to take risks and the possession of a valid driver’s licence.
"Smart interviewers know that interviewees have anticipated all their questions and come up with the kind of pre-packaged answers available to anyone on websites such as bigfatlies.com "
What three books have you read in the last two weeks? I love this question because it says that you have very high expectations and also because of the look on people’s faces when asked this beauty. Unless they count bedtime readings of The Cat in the Hat they won’t be able to name three books.
However, if they tell you the names of three books they have going at the same time – you know they are capable of multi-tasking, yet clearly prone to distraction.
If they answer your question by asking another question themselves, such as “What’s a book?”, you are most likely looking at your next boss.
How would you like to be remembered? Here’s another one where the interviewee will sometimes break down into tears because they think you are about to kill them. Someone who says, “I want to be remembered as a great team player” is a liar. Someone who says, “As a loving spouse and parent”, won’t like your insane demands that they work nights and weekends.
Look for an off-the-wall answer that reflects some thoughtfulness, such as, “As the person who saved Earth from the Vulcan invasion of 2032.”
I think lawn aeration is a sign of a conscientious homeowner. Yes, of course this isn’t a question or even a request for information. It’s a ‘trick statement’. Say it, then shut up. This is a way to test a person’s self-control. If your interviewee says nothing, hire her immediately.
Most candidates will launch into their own lawn-aeration story with up to 80 per cent of them exaggerating their crabgrass-combat expertise. You do not want someone who lies about lawns on your staff, believe me.
I forgot my wallet today. Will you lend me $5? Interviewees will be stunned when you ask them this, but 99.99 per cent nonetheless will give you $5. The other 0.01 per cent will ask you this question. That person will be your next boss.
With regular interview bouts this is also a good way to fund some sort of pension for yourself.